- Jerome Corsi, an author and right-wing conspiracy theorist with connections to President Trump's former advisor Roger Stone and Infowars host Alex Jones, has said he believes he'll soon be indicted in the Russia probe.
- Corsi and other Stone associates have been targeted by the special counsel's team.
- Corsi is the author of "Where's the Birth Certificate?" a 2011 polemic pushing the false "birther" conspiracy that President Obama was not born in the U.S. and was therefore ineligible to serve as president. Trump himself embraced birtherism as he built his political profile.
With the midterm elections out of the way, special counsel Robert Mueller's ostensibly dormant probe of Russian election interference appears to be heating up again.
That means Jerome Corsi, 72, an author and right-wing conspiracy theorist with connections to President Donald Trump's former advisor Roger Stone and Infowars host Alex Jones, could well be in the cross hairs. Corsi has said he believes he'll soon be indicted in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
While Corsi isn't a household name, he has been a mainstay on the political fringe for years, his influence at times extending into the mainstream of American politics. He was one of the main players in smear campaigns against 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and former President Barack Obama. Corsi pushed the "birther" conspiracy theory that falsely alleged Obama was not born in America. Trump himself embraced the birther narrative as he built his political career.
Corsi's profile is almost certain to grow if what he says about Mueller's investigation targeting him comes to fruition. Here's what you need to know about him:
Corsi told NBC News in a phone interview last week that the special counsel "told me they were going to indict me."
Hearing that news was "one of the most confusing and frightening things I've experienced," he said. "I'm 72 years and I'm afraid they're going to lock me up and put me in solitary confinement."
Mueller's team has reportedly investigated for months whether Corsi learned in advance that online whistleblowing database WikiLeaks had received Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails, which U.S. intelligence services have concluded were stolen by Russian intelligence officers. WikiLeaks dumped troves of Democratic National Committee emails in 2016 during the presidential campaign.
Corsi denied that he knew ahead of time about the hacking and release of Podesta's emails. He said he merely deduced that they would be released after finding few of the campaign chief's emails in prior dumps of Democrats' communications by WikiLeaks, NBC reported.
Corsi told NBC he has participated in "40 hours" of interview sessions with the special counsel, and that they "seemed determined to find a connection with WikiLeaks and me."
A spokesman for the special counsel declined CNBC's request for comment.
After revealing in September that Corsi had been subpoenaed by Mueller's team, Corsi lawyer David Gray told journalists in an email that "we intend to cooperate fully with the special counsel's office and we suspect that the focus of the questions will be about my client's communications with Roger Stone." Gray declined to comment on CNBC's inquiries about Corsi.
Stone, a longtime advisor to Trump known for dirty politics, had corresponded with numerous associates and other individuals about WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Multiple outlets reported last week that Justice Department prosecutors in an unrelated court filing revealed by mistake that Assange has been charged in an unspecified matter under seal.
Stone had presented himself to Trump campaign-related people as being privy to WikiLeaks' inner workings, according to copies of his emails and text messages that have been made public by various news outlets. He has since denied that he had any direct sources inside WikiLeaks, claiming that his past hints to the contrary were nothing more than political posturing.
Corsi and Stone also had connections to Infowars, the broadly pro-Trump conspiracy website led by Alex Jones, which has claimed that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were an "inside job" by the U.S. government and that the 2012 gun massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was a "false flag" operation. Corsi had been the site's Washington bureau chief in 2017 but no longer works there. Stone has made appearances on Infowars and hosts a daily show on the network.
Stone told CNBC in an email that he "met Dr. Corsi in 2011," and "did not know him prior to that." He did not respond to CNBC's follow-up questions about his relationship with Corsi.
Corsi is the author of "Where's the Birth Certificate?" a 2011 polemic pushing the so-called birther conspiracy that Obama was not born in the U.S. and was possibly raised as a Muslim.
While Obama released his long-form birth certificate weeks before Corsi's book was published, the book was not updated prior to its release, The Washington Post reported at the time.
Trump, who became one of the leading public figures questioning Obama's birthplace, had contacted Corsi as a source of information, according to The New York Times.
While he was still hosting the reality show "The Apprentice," Trump started pushing the conspiracy theory in television interviews as he teased the possibility of a presidential run. It was only on the eve of the 2016 election against Clinton that Trump conceded that Obama was born in the United States.
While birtherism was widely spread and discussed, it was also roundly dismissed and debunked by mainstream figures, many of whom decried the conspiracy as racist. Former first lady Michelle Obama wrote in her new memoir, "Becoming," that the "underlying bigotry and xenophobia" of the birther movement was "hardly concealed." She also wrote that she would never forgive Trump for popularizing the baseless claim because it put her family "at risk."
Corsi also co-authored the August 2004 book "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," which gathered testimony from a group of Vietnam veterans claiming the then Democratic presidential candidate had lied about numerous aspects of his service in the Vietnam War.
The Swift Boat vets drew significant media attention and became a major feature of the 2004 presidential contest — though many of the group's claims were later criticized for lacking evidence or being contradicted by other eyewitness accounts and military documents.
The group questioned how Kerry won his three Purple Heart medals, which are awarded to military personnel wounded in service. Some members who had served alongside Kerry in Vietnam claimed he lied about acts of wartime valor for which he was later celebrated.
Kerry had become a vocal anti-war activist after finishing his service in the Navy in 1970, and had testified before Congress about war crimes allegedly committed by Americans against the Vietnamese.
Kerry said that, during an investigation, he had heard 150 veterans' stories about "times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."
The resentment fomented by his 1971 testimony is still listed as a chief catalyst for the group's formation on some affiliated websites. Kerry's depiction of war crimes is brought up more than 50 times in "Unfit for Command," according to The New York Times.
"If John Kerry loses the presidential election, ''Unfit for Command,'' by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, will go down as a chief reason," the Times' Susannah Meadows wrote in her review of the book.
Kerry did lose the 2004 election to incumbent George W. Bush, and the success of the campaign to undermine his military record gave rise to the term "swiftboating" as political slang for political attacks of dubious veracity.